Is the age of the follower over?

Close your eyes for a moment. Think back to 2010.

Twitter was only a few years old. Social was relatively new. Some brands still didn’t have a Facebook page.

And follower counts on Twitter, Facebook and other social channels was a big deal. In fact, you could say it was a key metric for many companies.

Fast forward to 2017.

“Dark social” is prevalent.

Video rules the roost when it comes to content.

Snapchat is the social media darling.

And, tracking follower counts appears to be completely dead.

Today’s socially-savvy brands are focused on the following 3-4 big key metrics (in no particular order):

  • Impressions
  • Engagement
  • Traffic
  • Leads

How did we get here? A few key milestones contributed:

  • Facebook moved from a social media platform to a paid advertising platform when it went public a few years ago. Ever since, follower counts on Facebook are completely irrelevant since paid advertising allows you to target content to anyone, anywhere with the right dollar amounts
  • Dark social platforms like Snapchat emerged where follower counts don’t matter as much (if at all).
  • Direct/text messaging has eclipsed social media platforms in terms of usage–where “follower counts” don’t mean a thing.

So, I’m breaking news here: The era of the follower is officially over.

Think about it. On Facebook, for the reasons I mentioned in the first bullet, follower counts don’t matter a bit. And, I would argue same thing goes for Instagram as it moves (slowly) to an all “pay-for-play” model as well.

In fact, I would say the ONLY reason followers matter on Facebook (and soon, on Instagram) is ego. Executives and directors want their companies to have more followers than competitors. I’ve seen it before. It’s the only reason I can come up with as to why it still even registers on people’s radars.

What about Twitter? Follower counts still matter there, right? Well, yes and no. Yes, follower counts still matter when you think about who will see your content when you post. But again, given advertising’s influence, brands can use even a small amount of money to ensure followers (and those OUTSIDE their followings) see and engage with their content.

As I think about Twitter, really the only audiences who care a ton about follower counts are media (who refer to follower counts often in stories) and celebrities/influencers (who rely on follower counts to curry favor–and lots of money–from advertisers).

What about LinkedIn? You can follow brands there, right? Yep–and follower counts probably do matter there more than they do on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. But again, in 2017, I would argue engagement, traffic and impressions are key metrics that would come far before follower counts if I were managing a corporate page. And, with the advent of LinkedIn Publishing, engagement and impressions become more important metrics when you’re talking about executives using Publishing to share stories and POVs.

Again, we’re back to the holy trinity of social media metrics:

  • Impressions
  • Engagement
  • Traffic (and maybe leads)

The era of the follower is over, my friends.

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One comment on “Is the age of the follower over?

  1. George says:

    I think your right followers only matter for ego now, but they do also matter for social proof. E.g. if I was looking for a PR company to work with or perhaps a fashion brand to invest in; one with around 100 Twitter and Facebook followers and the other with 1000 Facebook and Twitter followers, I would myself look more favorably on the second. It’s not the determining factor to doing business by any means but it does help boost the legitimacy of the businesses work. But on the whole, I totally agree its all about the ‘holy trinity’: Impressions, Engagement & traffic. Followers simply remains a vanity metric.